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Palestinians rally in West Bank, Gaza to protest Abbas' decision to delay elections

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Palestinians participate in a rally in the southern occupied West Bank city of al-Khalil on May 1, 2021 in protest against a decision by President Mahmoud Abbas to postpone the planned parliamentary elections. (Photo by Safa news agency)

Hundreds of Palestinians have staged rallies in the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip to protest President Mahmoud Abbas’ decision to postpone parliamentary elections.

Scores of people gathered at Ibn Rushd roundabout in the southern West Bank city of al-Khalil, 30 km south of Jerusalem al-Quds, on Saturday in a demonstration called by the Workers' Unity Bloc and the Democratic Change List.

The participants chanted slogans in condemnation of the delay and reaffirmed their right to hold democratic elections. 

Elsewhere in the Gaza Strip, Palestinians staged rallies across the besieged coastal enclave to protest the postponement of the elections.

The protesters converged on the streets from various mosques in response to a call by Hamas resistance movement.

Addressing a rally in the northern part of Gaza, Moshir al-Masri, a Hamas leader, slammed Abbas' decision to delay the polls.

Suleiman Abu Sitta, a nominee on Hamas' electoral list, said during a rally in the southern Gaza town of Rafah that the “masses today are angry at the decision of the Palestinian Authority.”

“Delaying the polls is a political sin,” he added.

A member of Hamas political bureau announced that the movement is consulting with various political parties and electoral lists to reach a roadmap and prevent the Palestinians from being deprived of their right to vote.

“Hamas respects all sectors of the Palestinian society, and wants to have real talks with everyone to reach a strategy for the next phase,” Hessam Badran said.

“There is a national consensus on the need to hold Palestinian elections. What happened in connection with the backtrack on the national path was achieved with a completely partisan decision by Fatah and Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority,” Badran added.

He said dialog is the most proper way to unite Palestinians, which should not be done through slogans.

Abbas on Friday postponed the planned elections amid a dispute over voting in the occupied East Jerusalem al-Quds and divisions in his Fatah party.

He issued a presidential decree postponing the May 22 parliamentary and July 31 presidential elections, blaming Israel for uncertainty about whether it would allow the elections to proceed in East Jerusalem al-Quds as well as in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

But many Palestinians regarded the al-Quds issue as an excuse to avoid elections that Fatah might well lose to Hamas, as it did in the last parliamentary ballot in 2006.

On Friday, a Palestinian official said Abbas was offered at least four solutions to allow the first Palestinian elections in 15 years to move forward as planned, but instead decided to delay them.

The delay drew immediate criticism from many Palestinians and from would-be voters - no Palestinian under 34 has taken part in national elections.

It came on the day that campaigning was due to begin and preparations were already well underway, with thousands of new voters and three dozen party lists registered.

Israeli authorities have made many efforts to either cancel or postpone the Palestinian elections.

Israeli forces have escalated an arrest campaign targeting key Hamas figures in the West Bank in recent months, detaining Mustafa al-Shanar, Adnan Asfour, Khalid al-Hajj, Omar al-Hanbali, Jamal al-Tawil and Khatam al-Qafisheh, among others.

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